The love it deserves: a post dedicated to my sourdough starter and a couple of deceased goldfish.

When I was in high school I had a pet fish that thrived on neglect. He lived in a glass fish bowl in my bathroom (I was fortunate to have my own ensuite from age 13 until I moved out of home and got married at 18. Yes, 18. That’s another story). That poor fishy was treated to a daily cocktail of hairspray, deodorant and cheap perfume. I had one of those ‘surf’s up!’ fringes which was uber fashionable in the early 90s and it required significant teasing and an even more significant amount of hairspray. I dread to think about the daily cocktail of chemicals that poor fish endured simply because his home was next to every teenage girl’s favourite place, the bathroom mirror.

I fed him occasionally when I remembered and when I wasn’t busy watching episodes of 90210. I didn’t clean his bowl very often, because I had done that once with a previous pet fish (one that I had won at the Ekka) and accidentally dropped him out of the bowl and into the sink when I was tipping the water out. I remember panicking and not knowing what to do because I had heard that human skin touching a fish would burn it. It lay there flipping from side to side in the sink, so in my panic I turned the tap on and washed him away. I figured from that point on it would be safer not to clean out the bowl anymore. So anyway, I got a replacement fish and he lived in his cloudy fish bowl with slimy walls for a long time. One day my mum announced that we were going away to visit my family up north, so I asked my good friend and neighbour to take care of my fishy in my absence.

My well-meaning pet-sitter was so thoughtful. She fed my fish every day. She also cleaned out his bowl and gave him fresh water. And he died. It may have been from shock, who knows. I was pretty sad, but decided my fish-keeping days were over. It was just too much responsibility for me and my fluoro leg warmers.

I told you that story because I’ve been having trouble keeping my sourdough starter alive, and I want you to understand why. You see, sourdough starter does not thrive on neglect. Sourdough starter needs love, attention and routine. It likes to be fed flour and water. Not only does it like to be fed, it likes to be fed at around the same time each day – sometimes twice a day. My sourdough starter has been quite forgiving in that it has not completely died off on me, but it has certainly gone flat a few times and I’ve had to work a little harder to revive it. I’ve only had it going for three or four months, and in that time I have been experimenting with different flours and waters and techniques. It seems to be most active and bubbly and ready for use at night, when I want to go to bed. So I leave it until the morning but by then it’s waning, and I have to discard most of it and feed it again. I would like it to be ready for use in the morning, but I’m still working on that. I get into a routine for two or three days, and then I forget or get busy and my poor little starter starts looking quite sad.
So I’m spending some time tonight revisiting discussion forums and website FAQs dedicated to sourdough baking. I’ve made some killer sourdough loaves recently – see pic for a case in point, and I’d like to thank my little starter for that. I’ve also had my fair share of sourdough failures and to be honest, this hit and miss business is frustrating. I need to show my sourdough starter a little more love and respect, and a little less of my goldfish keeping days neglect.

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Which bugs are best? (Comparing Probiotics)

Most of our immune system is in our guts, so we need a healthy and strong digestive system in order to get and stay well. Our bodies naturally contain hundreds of different bacterial species (around 2kg in an adult’s gut) which help break down food and keep the intestines healthy, but we can also benefit by consuming more probiotics, and not just after a course of antibiotics. I could write a hundred articles about probiotics, it is such a fascinating topic. Instead I’ll point you to a wonderful article by Dr. Joseph Mercola for a useful overview.

I have been asked many times which probiotic supplement I recommend, so I thought I would line a few of the big brands up and compare them. In some cases this proved difficult as they do not all provide the same information regarding their products and some use differing units of measurement. I need to be clear here – I am not a qualified health professional, nor am I a chemist, scientist, medical researcher or any such expert when it comes to probiotics. I am someone who is interested in health and nutrition, and it is through this pathway that I have come to understand the importance of probiotics.

Like some other living organisms, probiotics can be categorised according to genus, species and strain. Some health practitioners prescribe specific probiotic strains to target different health conditions. I have not compared strains (apart from number of), but it is fascinating when you start looking into what effect the various strains can have on a body. Some strains bind and flush out pathogens, some directly inhibit e-coli, and others can reduce the occurence of thrush and calm the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

The three popular brands I chose to compare are Ethical Nutrients Inner Health Plus, BioCeuticals UltraBiotic 45 and BioKult.

Number of bacteria. This is basically how potent each capsule is.
Inner Health Plus – 25 billion per capsule
BioCeuticals – 45 billion per capsule
BioKult – 10 billion per gram / 2 billion per capsule (this doesn’t seem right when compared to the others – anyone know something I don’t about this?)

Number of bacterial species.
Inner Health Plus – 2
BioCeuticals – 9
BioKult – ‘multispecies’ (amount not specified)

Number of strains of beneficial microbes. Anything more than 5 strains is considered full-spectrum and therefore most beneficial.
Inner Health Plus – 2
BioCeuticals – 9
BioKult – 14

Inclusion of prebiotic fibre. This is important to encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria in the large intestine. Most probiotics serve the small intestine well, so the inclusion of a prebiotic maximises the benefits. There is some caution to prebiotics, and that is that they also feed pathogens (the bad bacteria). As a side-note, sugar also feeds pathogens, which is just one more reason to limit it in your diet. If you have serious gut issues that you are working to heal, the inclusion of prebiotics in your probiotic supplement may cause some bloating or flatulence. This is why some of the more expensive and potent brands of probiotic supplements do not include a prebiotic.
Inner Health Plus – Yes
BioCeuticals – No
BioKult – No

Having considered that, it is useful to look at how we can consume probiotics naturally rather than synthetically. Dr Mercola had the following to say:

It’s unusual to find a probiotic supplement containing more than 10 billion colony-forming units. But when my team actually tested fermented vegetables produced by probiotic starter cultures, they had 10 trillion colony-forming units of bacteria. Literally, one serving of vegetables was equal to an entire bottle of a high potency probiotic! Fermented foods also give you a wider variety of beneficial bacteria, so all in all, it’s your most cost effective alternative.”

This is one of the driving reasons that I have been spending hours in my kitchen experimenting with sauerkraut, kefir, rejuvelac, raw yoghurt and so on. I aim to consume cultured / fermented food daily, and I also keep a jar of probiotic supplements in my fridge for days that I feel I need an extra boost or to give to my children when they are run-down or unwell.

I implore you to do your own research into probiotics and the important role they play in overall health as well as in assisting to heal specific conditions. There is a growing body of medical and scientific research confirming the value of what many traditional cultures have known and done with their food for generations, that is creating healthy gut flora.

Posted in Food, Ranting, Resources and Support, Wellness | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Radical homemaking

I’ve discovered a phrase (and a concept, a momentum, a lifestyle) that describes perfectly the journey I am on. I recently read the book Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes and it hit me like a punch to the stomach.  I had a stirring in my soul for a number of days after I started reading it – it resonates so soundly with me.

This book appeals to so many facets of who I am: an eco-geek, a baking queen, an educated housewife, a global citizen, a spiritual child, and an attachment parent. It appeals to who I want to be: a minimalist, an urban homesteader, a community cusader, a tomato-canning feminist. It validates (not that we need validation) the life Informed Papa and I are creating, and confirms that there are many others out there like us, choosing to reject the mainstream for the betterment of all.

A major point that hit home and will echo in my mind for the rest of time, of this I am sure, is the idea of transforming the family home from being a unit of consumption to one of production. Take a breath and read that again. This is underpinned by an understanding that it is not how much money we make that matters, but how much money we don’t have to spend.

The book boldly presents the possibility of learning to ‘live on less in order to take the time to nourish your family and the planet through home cooking, engaged citizenship, responsible consumption and creative living’. Modern housewives do not need to be reduced to simply chauffeurs, shoppers and house primpers who are amply busy, but still feeling empty, marginalized and unfulfilled. Radical Homemakers wield great power for reforming our society.

Some of my favourite passages from the book are as follows:

“In the old paradigm, women chose the gilded cage or the glass ceiling. If they chose the gilded cage and stayed home, they became slave to the marketplace image of the happy (shopping) homemaker. If they opted for the glass ceiling, they entered the workforce, where they became enslaved to their employers and hoped that they could fulfill their family dreams without getting tossed out like a used Kleenex. In the paradigm of the Earth Community, Radical Homemakers have chosen to stop investing their life energy in any employment that does not honor the four tenets of family, community, social justice and ecological balance. Instead, they invest themselves in the support of family, community, and environmental stewardwhip so that those things, in return, will pay them lifelong dividends.”

and

“We have lost the innate knowledge and traditional crafts essential to countless functions for our daily survival, with the end result being a disconnection from our communities and our natural world. So complete is this detachment that we are unaware of the ecological and social damage created by mass production for our daily needs”…”For each daily need that we re-learn to provide within our homes and communities, we strengthen our independence from an extractive and parasitic economy. As we realise the impact of each choice we make, we discover ways to simplify our demands and rebuild our domestic culture.”

The first half of the book critiques our current cultural and economic systems while looking at the history of domesticity and feminism. The second half of the book is made up of the findings from interviews with real practicing Radical Homemakers.  This book came into my life at exactly the right time. I was ready for it, and now I am ready to continue my charge into creating myself as a Radical Homemaker.

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My breastfeeding experiences

Sunshine Girl having a feed.

I am a breastfeeding champion! Well, I thought I was when I had my son, but things have been a little different with my daughter. In recognition of World Breastfeeding Week and in support of normalising breastfeeding, here’s my experience with being a 24/7 milk bar.

When I was 21 weeks pregnant with Boy Wonder I started leaking colostrum.  From then on I had to wear nursing pads day and night, which was kind of annoying, but it was at that point that I figured that I would probably have a pretty good milk supply.  And that’s an understatement! After he was born, I brought Boy Wonder up onto my chest and he latched on perfectly. He stayed there sucking for a good forty minutes. I looked up at Informed Papa and queried him about when I should change sides, as if he would know! I then switched him over and he kept sucking away happily. I don’t remember any day or moment when my milk came in, and was confused when people kept asking if it had happened. I do remember that those first few weeks were incredibly painful, and breastfeeding felt like I had razor blades pushing into my breasts.

Boy Wonder fed every 2-3 hours for many months… until he was well established on solids.  He did drop a night feed some time before then, and I remember crying about it and thinking that he was growing up and didn’t need me anymore. On my first night home from hospital he fed hourly. Alllll night. It wiped me out completely, but I knew it was normal in helping establish my supply. Not that I needed any help.

I remember every time I had a shower just standing there and watching the milk pour out. Then I would step out to dry myself and have to be super quick putting on my bra and nursing pad before I made another big mess. There were quite a few nights in those early months where I got so full and engorged that I would up in the middle of the night expressing just to get some relief. I could pump 200mL in 8 minutes or less. I also made quite a mess of the walls in our room, our bed, various furniture etc. as my milk would shoot out for metres when Boy Wonder would unlatch. I wore nursing pads day and night for over seven months, at which point I started just wearing them in the day. In the first three months I also wore some gel cooling pads to help ease some of the pain. It felt heavenly to put them on and I’m sure they are the reason I never experienced cracking or bleeding.

I found with both my children that I couldn’t eat chocolate. They would both scream their little lungs out following the next couple of feeds, and it just was not worth it. People tried to tell me that this would only last until 12 weeks when a baby’s digestive system was a little more mature. I tried a number of times to have a little nibble of chocolate and always had negative reactions up until around the 7 month mark with both kiddies.

With Boy Wonder I loved breastfeeding. I loved everything about it (except the pain and discomfort from sitting down on hard chairs so often). I did get a bit of back, neck and shoulder pain which I am still working on fixing, and I found using a special breastfeeding pillow in the first few months was useful (I used the My Brest Friend pillow which has lumbar support).

Is there anything more lovely than a milk drunk baby? When Boy Wonder was two weeks old he got a little cold, and sure enough my body created the antibodies he needed and he got better quickly. I didn’t realise how fortunate I was to have a baby who loved his feeds – he didn’t care if it was directly from me or expressed milk from a bottle. He also didn’t care if he had -gasp- formula, which he did on the odd occasion.

When Boy Wonder was about ten months old I felt ready to start trying for another baby. Of course that wasn’t going to happen because my cycle hadn’t returned due to breastfeeding so often. I was torn because as much as I wanted him to wean, the thought saddened me. I also wasn’t prepared to force him to wean, as I believe in following a baby’s lead.

My cycle did eventually return (just once) and I fell pregnant straight away when Boy Wonder was 13 months old. At 14 months he was having a sometimes morning and an always evening breastfeed, but he decided to self-wean. I’m not sure why, and can only assume that it was something to do with a change in my milk due to the change in hormones of my pregnant self. It was a bizarre experience to suddenly not have this little person relying on me in that special way. I had thought he would keep feeding until he was around two, but I just went with the flow and followed his lead.

Fast forward to Sunshine Girl’s birth. I hadn’t leaked any colostrum during her pregnancy. I also barely needed nursing pads except in the first couple of weeks. She latched on fine most of the time, but sometimes it was a bit of a struggle for her. Unlike when I had Boy Wonder, this time I knew the moment my milk came in. I also knew when she had drained me empty, which seemed to happen pretty regularly. This was such a strange experience for me, as I always had more than enough milk when I was feeding Boy Wonder. Sunshine Girl also rejected me a few times, which was a little difficult for me to accept.

I tried expressing a few times in the early days and after half an hour I could only get 20mL or less. That was frustrating and annoying.  Consequently she never took a bottle, and still at 10 months age will refuse to drink anything from a bottle. It is as if she doesn’t know what to do with it – she plays around with it in her mouth but never sucks on the teat. She will drink water from a sippy cup, but that’s all. I have tried many times to supplement with formula, using every bottle, teat, sippy cup, straw etc. known to mankind. This girl knows what the good stuff is and where to find it, and she won’t accept any substitutes!

I used to think that if a baby was hungry enough that they would eat and that mothers who said their baby wouldn’t take a bottle were just being ridiculous. And then along came Sunshine Girl. At five months of age she went eight hours between feeds because I wasn’t around for some reason, and she refused any kind of substitute – even expressed milk. I worked so darn hard to get that milk out, and it killed me to come home and find the bottle still full, and to have to tip it down the sink.

I’ve also found my attitude to breastfeeding this time around to be different. While I soaked it up with Boy Wonder and cherished the special bond at feeding time, I have moments with Sunshine Girl where I just resent her feeding and wish she would wean. I am sure this is all linked to hormones because I wouldn’t ever actually force her to wean and I want her to feed as long as possible.  Plus, she’s a biter and she latches on very tightly. I have bite marks after every feed. Sometimes she cries after a feed because I’ve run out of milk and she wants more.  Talk about a massive difference to my experience feeding Boy Wonder!

Speaking of Boy Wonder, I have offered him a breastfeed several times since Sunshine Girl has been around. Once he sort of brought his head close and put his mouth on me, and then laughed and pulled it away. He is completely disinterested and always declines my offers.

At this stage, Sunshine Girl is having anywhere from 4-7 feeds every 24 hours. Sometimes she only takes one side, other times she takes both. She always feeds overnight, usually once around midnight and sometimes more than that. I’ve never forced either of my children into any kind of feeding or sleeping schedule. They are clever little creatures who can regulate those things themselves.

To sum it up, this is what I love about breastfeeding:

  • The convenience. The right stuff at the right temperature no matter where we are. No lugging around bottles, no washing and scrubbing teats, no having to heat milk up. Being a cosleeper it also means I can just roll over during the night and meet my baby’s needs, rather than have to get up to prepare a bottle.
  • The bonding. Many times with Boy Wonder and a few times with Sunshine Girl I would get a huge gush of feel-good hormones while feeding, and would be overwhelmed with love for my child. I have been accused of having post-natal elation.
  • The weight loss. In both cases for me, I have lost a ton of weight while breastfeeding, despite eating huge amounts of food. This is not a huge deal for me as I have always maintained a weight I am happy with, but I guess it is a nice bonus.
  • No monthly period/cycle.
  • The nourishment of my children. Breastmilk is liquid gold. I have given my children the best of the best start in life and on their journey of health and wellness.

Any negatives I have felt about breastfeeding are so petty in comparison that it is not worth mentioning, least of all it would make me sound incredibly selfish. I treasure that I have been able to successfully feed my babies, especially being that I was not breastfed myself. My mother chose not to breastfeed me as she didn’t want my older brother (he’s 15 months older) to get jealous. She has mentioned to me more than once that she is surprised and proud of my breastfeeding efforts. Now that I think about it, I have never really been part of any breastfeeding culture and don’t remember any of my friends breastfeeding their babies in front of me in my pre-children days.

Please know that by sharing my breastfeeding choices and experiences I am not judging yours. I may not understand when people choose to not breastfeed for social reasons, but ultimately it is not my business. As for me and my children, breast has been best.

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YOLO (The Sheeples’ Catch-Cry)

Do you ever have people look at your lifestyle or dietary choices and then rationalise their opposition to it with something along the lines of, ‘Meh! We’re all gonna die some day anyway, I’d rather die happy and fat than have to eat a salad every day’, or even better, ‘You only live once, you might as well enjoy it and eat what you want’. It’s not just with reference to nutrition either, I’ve heard plenty of lemmings recite things along the same lines when discussing their choice to smoke cigarettes.

Well, here’s a newsflash. I don’t eat well so that I will live longer.

Eating well for me is about enjoying a better quality of life every day. If you’ve never had a clean diet then you might not actually know what it is to feel well. You may not even be aware how crappy you do feel, if you don’t have a feeling of wellness to compare it to.  I know too many people who feel sluggish regularly, or who suffer from headaches, are perpetually tired, lethargic, or short-tempered… and this is normal for them.

Small changes to nutrition can have massive effects on your wellness and well-being. Reducing sugar, caffeine, processed foods, preservatives, artifical additives and alcohol can dramatically improve your body’s ability to function and thrive. Throw some nutrient-dense food into the equation and your cells will be singing with joy as your body finds it easier to keep up the mammoth task of keeping you alive every day.

It is so pleasant to work WITH your body, rather than against it. Do you feel sluggish and ordinary? Do you feel sluggish and ordinary and NOT know it because you’ve got nothing to compare it to? Give your body a break. Learn to say no to yourself when it matters (nutritional choices) and yes to yourself when it’s needed (exercise).

I would love to hear any stories or testimonials from readers about lifestyle or dietary changes that have had noticeable positive effects on daily function. Please share your story in the comments section of this post, or on the Informed Mama Facebook page!

If you liked this post, you may also enjoy The Trouble With Moderation.

Posted in Food, Ranting, Wellness | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Homemade oat and coconut milk

I have a new love in my life. Oat and coconut milk. Simple to make, and incredibly delicious.

Oat and Coconut Milk

Here’s how I make it:

1. Put 1/3 cup wholegrain rolled oats and 1/3 cup organic shredded coconut in a jug and cover with 1 litre of filtered water (adjust this if you’d like a thicker/thinner consistency).

Check the ingredients list of your coconut, and make sure it does not contain sulfites / sulfur dioxide (220) or some other preservative. Many supermarket packets of coconut contain nasties, so be a label detective and make sure to buy one that is 100% coconut. Unless you are super keen and have made your own from fresh coconut using a dehydrator!

2. Place in the fridge to soak overnight.

3. Pour the entire contents of the jug into a high-powered blender and whizz that baby up! This is different to many nut mylks where you are required to discard the soaking water and replace with fresh.

4. Strain the liquid using a nut bag so that all the gritty bits and slush are left behind and you are only left with silky smoothe milk.

5. Refrigerate and enjoy!

Lots of non-dairy milk/mylk recipes require some kind of sweetener, such as dates, vanilla extract, or maple syrup. Honestly, this recipe does not need sweetening! The coconut provides a nutty sweetness and the combination with the oats means it’s perfect just as it is.

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Haters gonna hate!

Recently I have read some lovely blog posts only to see some interesting and inappropriate comments posted in response. One post was Real Food Fridge about what the author has in her fridge. The photo and description show things like whey, sauerkraut, homemade jams, sauces and dressings, sourdough culture and so on (I was excited – take the meat away and it looks a lot like our fridge!).  The second was from {a little delightful} outlining some questions and answers about what the author feeds her children, which happens to be food cooked from scratch and mostly devoid of nasties.

In both cases there were overwhelmingly positive and supportive comments, and there were also some not-so cheery responses, such as-

“Gack!  This post reads so smug … with its supposedly totally candid photos of your (digitally labeled) typical (and perfect) fridge contents is self-indulgent and self-righteous, a real (food) turn-off.   When the sting is gone from my comment, consider the sentiment.”

“im sorry. let kids just be kids. have fun and enjoy food. create memories and live a little! i used to like your blog, not so much anymore.”

“Are you on some high horse or something? Think youre better than the rest of us who feed our kids normal foods? I agree, not a fan of youre blog anymore. Tired of being made to feel like the most shit parent.”

Let’s set some things straight. No blogger ever sets out to write a post that will make other people feel like crap. If you read something and you feel challenged, convicted, condescended, guilty, offended or upset, then that is not the blogger’s fault. It is a reflection of your own self-worth and closed-mind.

Bloggers write posts to inspire, inform, connect, resonate, and share. No blogger ever claimed to be perfect, and noone posting altruistic and useful information should ever have to tone down their content for fear of offending someone, especially when the topic is health and wellness. Bloggers are people sharing their experiences, and sometimes those experiences are similar to people’s every day lives, and some can be far removed. That’s what makes their blogs interesting and that’s why people keep coming back to read them.

People on a conscious journey (be that health, peaceful parenting, natural living etc) who are blogging are not where they are because they woke up yesterday and radically changed their lives. Small steps over a period of time take you to a new place, where you can look back and reflect on where you have come from and how much you have learned and developed along the way. A blog is a wonderful tool for documenting that journey and for connecting with others of like mind. If a blogger is leaps and bounds apart from where you currently are, that’s okay. It doesn’t make them pretentious or holier-than-thou, and they certainly don’t think they are ‘better than you’.  They’ve simply taken more or different steps on their journey and are welcoming you to come along. Or not. There’s nothing wrong with reading something and thinking, ‘well, fair enough, but that’s not for me’.

So quit hatin’! Show some respect for the people who choose to share their learning and experiences. These bloggers are putting positive and helpful messages out, they deserve the same in return.

Posted in Ranting | Tagged | 5 Comments

On being Fed Up!

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Fed Up roadshow, run by Sue Dengate. If you haven’t heard of Fed Up, it is an Australian movement/support network concerned with the effects of food on behaviour, health and learning.

Sue Dengate at the Fed Up Roadshow 2012

I love the message of Fed Up and how Sue has worked tirelessly over many years to educate parents about food additives. She is a champion and deserves much praise for that. She has campaigned to spread the message about what’s really in our foods, and has influenced companies to change their recipes and formulas. The Fed Up message empowers parents to take control over the food choices for their families.

I know of parents who have put their families on the failsafe diet and have seen significant changes in their children’s behaviour. There is no doubt that the diet and recommendations are revolutionary for some families who have previously never given much thought to the ingredients of their foods. Sue is a hero and a champion.

I want to also add that despite the overwhelmingly good messages delivered at the Roadshow, there were a few things that were highlighted which made me sit upright in my seat and pull a funny face.

1. Sugar does not affect behaviour.

Okay, this may be accurate (it also may not, depending which studies you believe). But let’s go with it being accurate in this instance. Sugar may not affect behaviour in the way that artificial flavours, colours, additives and preservatives can, but it is still a poison. No I am not being radical and fanatical and I’m not sensationalising things.  Look into it. Sugar is highly addictive, it suppresses the immune system, feeds cancer cells and pathogens in the digestive system allowing them to proliferate, and triggers weight gain. It is fairly impossible to avoid in our modern diet, and I’m not suggesting that we never consume sugar in any of its myriad forms, but I am concerned that parents will walk away from these sessions with the message that ‘sugar is okay’ and continue to shove food down their children’s throats that is free from artificial additives, but loaded with sugar. A better message would be, ‘Sugar may not negatively affect children’s behaviour, however it has other harmful effects and should be minimised or avoided’. It’s easy to substitute sugar into recipes with other natural alternatives that don’t have the same negative effects on the body.

2. White bread is okay.

There may be a few brands that sell white bread that is free from nasty preservatives etc., but that does not mean that white bread is nutritious on any level; in fact it is detrimental to our health. The refining of the wheat grain to get white flour removes the husk, the bran and any trace of goodness. It’s then bleached and dried at high temperature, killing any possible remaining nutrients. White bread has a high Glycemic Index, so the sugars are released quickly into the bloodstream , triggering the body to release insulin. Frequently imablanced blood sugar levels leads to Type II Diabetes, among other things. White bread lacks fibre, so clogs up the digestive system and makes it difficult for the colon to function effectively. Ever heard the saying The whiter the bread, the quicker you’re dead? It’s not far wrong.

3. Canola oil is recommended for cooking.

I ummed and aahed about posting this because it’s a curly one, especially because canola oil is also recommended by the Australian Heart Foundation (mind you, the AHF also recommends processed and synthetic margarine spreads). As far I’m concerned, the jury is still out on canola oil. There are lots of negative claims about canola oil floating around the internet, with some being dismissed as urban legend.  I choose to know what I put in my body and what effect it can have. If something is wildly controversial and difficult to obtain unbiased factual information about, then I choose to not to put it in my mouth. I cannot be certain that it is not doing harm. I cannot find any culinary or nutritious reason to use canola oil, and lots of ‘possible’ issues with it. For this reason, I would not promote it as safe. I think any food recommendation needs to include the reason why, and this was not provided at the Fed Up Roadshow.

**UPDATE** March 2013 – since writing the above I have learned that canola is a genetically modified (GM) crop, which is devastating on so many levels. I am relieved that I have chosen to rid it from my diet!  Read more here.

Many parents are completely desperate and need support when it comes to changing their shopping, cooking and eating habits.  I see Fed Up and the failsafe diet as an excellent opportunity for these people to become conscious food consumers who feed their children thoughtfully, but if they are told that things like sugar and white bread are okay, then the message about wellness is distorted. Let’s not just cut out the additives, let’s promote health.

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Informed Mama

I’ve decided the time is ripe and right to start an Informed Mama page on Facebook. I would love it if you would ‘like’ my page and let any of your likeminded crunchy-ish friends know!

 

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Kale, that super hip green.

Let’s talk about kale for a minute. It’s so in right now. Kale chips, kale salad, kale juice, pan-fried kale with garlic and butter… it is sometimes referred to as the beef of a plant-based diet, because per-calorie it contains more iron than beef.

If you’ve never seen or eaten kale before, it is a dark green leafy vegetable from the same family as cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. There are lots of varieties and Informed Papa has been experimenting growing a range. We are so lucky – kale has thrived in our garden for the past eighteen months or so.

Kale:
– Contains ridiculous amounts of calcium. In fact, it contains more calcium per calorie than milk, and is easier for your body to absorb than milk.
– Contains massive doses of Vitamin K, promoting strong and healthy bones and essential for our nervous system. Kale has about twice the Vitamin K of other cruciferous vegetables.
– Is cholesterol-lowering, especially when cooked.
– Has antioxidant properties. Kale lowers cancer risk in at least five types of cancer (bladder, breast, ovary, colon, prostrate). Kale contains chemicals which block the growth of certain types of cancer cells, boost DNA repair and help cells to detox.
– Is an excellent source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Vitamin A is good for your skin and your vision. Vitamin C helps your immune system, metabolism and the growth and repair of tissues.
– Has anti-inflammatory properties, so is great for arthritis, autoimmune disease, and heart disease.
– Yadda, yadda, yadda. Seriously, I could go on. This vegetable is a nutritional powerhouse.

Here is one recipe that I love so much I could eat it every day. I cooked it twice this week already.

Chunky Bean and Kale Soup


Chunky Bean and Kale Soup
(Serves 2)
From Patrick Holford’s The Optimum Nutrition Cookbook

1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 sticks celery, sliced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
500mL well-flavoured vegetable stock
150g cooked or canned red kidney beans
150g kale, shredded
1 tbs tomato puree
1/2 tsp dried oregano

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan and add all the fresh vegetables except kale. Stir over low heat for 2-3 mins.
2. Add stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and cook for 15 minutes.
3. Mash half the kidney beans and add to the soup with the whole beans, shredded kale, tomato puree and herbs and continue cooking for another 10 minutes.

When I make this, I strip the kale leaves off the stalk. I don’t include the stalk in the meal because I think it would be kinda tough. This soup can be served over day-old sourdough, or over toasted polenta squares.

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